Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday Confessional: How high are your expectations for your child?

Max, ace skier

We just got back from an amazing weekend at our friends' rural home. Saturday was frigid, around 15 degrees, but Sunday was a virtual heat wave—25 degrees!—so the kids tried skiing. The mountain we visited participates in an adaptive ski program for the disabled, Stride. Joe, a professional instructor, was on hand to give Max a private lesson. He was a total saint. A skiing saint.

On the car ride up to our friends, I started wondering whether Max would tolerate ski boots. They're clunky and heavy for adults—would he be able to handle them? Would he mind the cold? Would he keep his balance on a pair of skis? I decided that if Max would just let us put the boots on him and he stepped around in the snow for a bit, I would be content. I believe this is what's known as a defense mechanism; I set low-ish expectations, so I won't be disappointed or sad if Max doesn't achieve what we'd like him to. I never let it show. I cheer Max on and say "You can do it!" even if I am not so sure inside my head.

Max was freaked by the frenzy inside the ski lodge and wailed. When we walked over to the rental area to get him ski boots, the very sweet teen guy at the counter took a liking to Max and gave him the royal treatment. The dancing snowman perched on the counter also helped relax him (God bless those corny little gadgets). Suddenly, there was Max clomping around in boots, extremely pleased with himself. When we got him onto skis, he was a little scared. Then he started loving the feel of sliding around on the snow and giggling. He was able to keep the skis parallel, a real feat. I was ecstatic! Once again, he amazed me.

Sabrina, who I thought would love skiing, was a real grouch (see Exhibit A, above). She kept complaining the boots hurt and that she was tired, and lasted maybe a half hour. Max was out for a good hour!

In other events this weekend, Sabrina and I had a bedtime stand-off and she announced, "YOU'RE FIRED!" Where the heck did she pick that up from—Donald Trump? We also discovered this weekend that Max is a chocolate-milk fiend, he drank his body weight in it, a good thing since he's so thin and we'd like to beef him up. We're off to get him gallons of the stuff.

Tell me, do you always set the bar high for your children—or do you sometimes do the low-expectations thing?


  1. After being a judo instructor for over 14 years. I set no expectations on no one. I've had initially hyper children that turn out to be my best students; and quiet, very intelligent book-worm kids end up being my most misbehaved.

    I don't think it's really up to you any how? I say set your kids up with what THEY want to do, and at least let them TRY it first, they may love it!

    Check out www. She is a member of the US Paralympic Ski team, she rolled with Cole the whole way on his 5k Walk/Roll... A wonderful lady.

  2. I'm really glad y'all had a good time and I'm so glad Max liked it....I think alot of times I expect way too much from Corey and forget to keep in mind that he's just 8 years old.......I'm working on it but I sure have a ways to go!

  3. I L-O-V-E that you got "fired". I would have paid money to be there at that moment!

    And my parents always set really high expectations for me, but not so high I couldn't achieve them. It helped me become who I am today.

  4. My expectations for the kids are low, I think, not because of what I think they can or can't do, but because of my fear that I will be disappointed in them, and they will sense it. The truth is, I don't know what to expect. They are so young... It could go either way. Or it could just go right down the middle, and land in mediocrity.

    But I certainly don't have the delusions of grandeur I once enjoyed so well.

  5. Hi Ellen,
    I'm still totally addicted to your blog and loving every post. I had to chime in on this one. Gavin is only 15 months so who knows how I'll be when he's older. I can say right now that I think I have MAJORLY high expectations in GOD when it comes to Gavin. I totally expect him to experience a miracle. And I have HIGH HIGH expectations for ME as his Mommy. I always feel like it is my responsibility to *fix* him. And I swear...I will. Somehow.

  6. I spend a lot of time thinking about this. Bennett is still quite young so it's hard to know what to expect. Sometimes I catch myself thinking "he'll never be able to do that" and then I get upset with myself because I may be ensuring he "never" does that just because I assume that he won't. I just keep trying to remind myself to let him show me what he can do and cheer him on regardless of the outcome. It's hard though to not set yourself up for disappointment. However, disappointment is part of life and he'll need to learn that too. I guess what it comes down to is finding a balance between offering every opportunity possible but also trying to prepare myself for the result - whatever it may be.

    I hope that all made sense. It's a tough topic.

    I'm glad Max had fun!

  7. Well, I think that if I'm completely honest I'll say that sometimes I have high expectations and sometimes I don't. There have been so many times where I just didn't see how Charlie was EVER going to be able to do something and then eventually he did. At this point whenever I find myself thinking that Charlie will NEVER do something, I remind myself of all the things he CAN do that I never thought possible.

  8. Hip, hip, hooray!!!! I'd love to take D somewhere similar. I'll have to look it up!

    I set high expectations. Sometimes we meet them, sometimes we don't. I don't let myself get disappointed if we don't, we just try again sometime down the road. Jeff gets disappointed. So, we equal each other out, I guess.

  9. I, too, sometimes set the bar low for D Man. I think it's because we want to be able to celebrate our child's accomplishments, no matter what they may be. For example, D started playing hockey last week. Now, he's only 4, he has hemi, and ice skating is tough for most little ones as it is. I told myself that if he could just keep his feet under his body while he held onto a chair or someone's hand, I'd be thrilled. Lo and behold, he surprised us by skating clear across the rink unassisted without falling down. I certainly wasn't expecting that, so I was pleasantly surprised. But if I had psyched myself up for seeing him glide across the ice and it never happened, I would have felt a bit low. As you said, I think the low expectations are a defense mechanism. It's not that we don't believe in our kids, but rather that we want to remind ourselves to be proud of them no matter what.

  10. Hi Love that is a great pic of Sabrina.....

  11. HOW COOL! I love that you were able to take them skiing.
    This is a GREAT question. You write the most provocative posts. This is a big issue for me. I find that if I have high expectations, then I set myself up for disappointments. But if I have low expectations, I am afraid that I will discourage him from opportunities. Honestly, I don't know where the balance is between these two. It has to be something along the lines of not having "expectations" but dreams for our kids, so they don't set us up to be disappointed but in such a way that we give them opportunities.
    Mostly I find myself having low expectations and just allowing anything he does to delight me - I find life is much easier this way :-)
    I would love to know your thoughts on how to find a balance on this one!

  12. Wow. How great that Max had such a good time and how awesome that this sort of instruction exists. I am going to look around and see if there's any mountain resorts in my neck of the woods that do the same.

    And that photo of Sabrina is just priceless. She's gorgeous and what a pout! ;-).

    As for expectations, I think that's a tricky one. When people ask me 'Do you think BC will ever walk independently?' every time, I used to be unsure how to respond. I know I hope he will, and his therapists are confident he will, but I guess I just feel differently about it these days.

    I usually respond by giving the ambiguous response 'We're not in any hurry.'. And I'm not. Four years down this track, I just feel that any achievement is amazing and that setting any sort of time target just opens the way to disappointment.

    So we keep working towards goals, but not time frames. We give everything a go and I would never, ever stop him from trying to do something if he wanted to, even if the odds were against him. So I guess my expectations are hopeful rather than high.


Thanks for sharing!

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